KABUL, Afghanistan - The next key U.S. military operation in Afghanistan will focus on Marjah, the last major Taliban stronghold in Helmand province, a Marine commander said Wednesday. Col. George Amland, the deputy commander of Task Force Leatherneck, gave no timeframe for its start.
Marjah, with a population of up to 100,000, is considered key to fracturing the Taliban's influence in southern Afghanistan.
The Marine-led operation will "alter the ecosystem of this area significantly," according to Amland, who said Marjah's insurgency has tentacles that stretch to Pakistan and the bordering provinces of Nimruz and Farah.
The backbone of the force will be made up of some of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan by President Barack Obama, Amland said, and also will include a larger contingent of Afghan National Security Forces than has been used in previous operations.
The last major operation by U.S. Marines against Taliban fighters in southern Helmand took place not long after U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over in June as the allied commander in Afghanistan.